Former Ohio Catholic school student sues school, coach after alleged sexual harassment from teammates

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An Ohio 17-year-old is suing his former Catholic school after an older student allegedly pinned him down and simulated sodomizing him on multiple occasions for more than a year, often as other classmates took video and laughed.

The lawsuit against St. Edward High School in Lakewood also names head track and cross-country coach Nathan Brannen, school board president James Kubacki and principal KC McKenna, in connection with sex assaults, bullying and other harassment the victim allegedly received at the hands of fellow runners.

The teen, identified in the lawsuit only as John Doe, enrolled at the school in 2019.

Coach Brannen invited the plaintiff to attend NEO XC Camp in Bellville, Ohio, a week-long sleepaway summer camp with other runners, ahead of his first semester, according to the lawsuit. 

On three separate occasions at the camp, an older, stronger boy pinned the plaintiff down and simulated a sex assault with other students watching, the teen’s lawyers wrote in a court filing. They said the behavior went unreported because of “fear and intimidation.”

The same older boy was caught allegedly engaged in “outrageously inappropriate sexual behavior” with another student, according to the court filing, and reported to Brannen. 

Then in September of that year, the same boy allegedly pinned John Doe down in a school bathroom, trapped his arms and again “simulated” a sex assault on Doe, the lawsuit reads.

He and other students allegedly mocked the victim, who again out of alleged fear and intimidation did not report the interaction.

Three weeks later, the team went on an out-of-town trip for a multi-day meet in Dayton.

Brannen allegedly assigned the team to rooms and then “his supervision then ceased in its entirety,” according to the filing.

The two teens in the victim’s room allegedly left the door unlocked so the bully and another student could enter. When they did, the bigger boy allegedly pinned Doe down once more and repeated his lewd act as the others laughed. At least two of them, and possibly more, filmed the incident with their smartphones, according to the plaintiff’s lawyers.

Teammates later circulated the video, and it allegedly became known as “The Rape Video,” according to the filing.

“This video was shared for the purpose of humiliating and intimidating Plaintiff and to prevent him from reporting the assault,” Doe’s attorneys alleged.

Nearly a year later, the boys circulated the video on Snapchat, and the victim’s parents saw it, according to the filing.

“They preserved the video and contacted Defendant Brannen about the need for an immediate meeting of utmost importance,” the complaint reads.

They met within a few days and Brannen allegedly told the victim’s parents the perpetrator was “a f—— a—–.”

Then he allegedly told the parents he wanted to coach the team, not be responsible for supervision, and is accused of admitting he knew about the prior incidents at summer camp.

He’s also accused of trying to discourage the parents from raising the issue with school administrators.

But two days later, they met with Kubacki and McKenna. By that point, they had seen screenshots that allegedly showed degrading comments against the son, the prime bully talking about requiring incoming freshman students – underage boys – to share nude selfies, and “bigoted and obscenely degrading homosexual comments,” among other evidence, including video and audio records.

After the meeting, the school announced an investigation into the matter – but the defendants are accused of telling the students who had been involved to delete evidence from their phones and social media before the probe even started.

The internal investigation was handled by “an individual who was neither qualified nor trained to investigate sexual assault, hazing, bullying” or evidence on social media and electronic devices, according to the lawsuit. And McKenna alleged lied “directly to Plaintiff and his parents” during the proceedings.

The Lakewood Police Department opened an investigation but determined it had no jurisdiction over the events in Dayton, where “The Rape Video” had been recorded, according to a court filing.

Lawyers for the teen said he had been repeatedly subjected to harassment and intimidation and was suffering from PTSD.

He eventually left the school and the family moved elsewhere – but allegedly continued to receive intimidating messages from his alleged abusers and former teammates.

In a statement, the school said it learned of the alleged abuses more than a year after they happened:

“St. Edward High School (St. Ed’s) has received and is reviewing a lawsuit filed involving our school and a situation that occurred in 2019. While we cannot provide details on pending legal matters and must protect the privacy of our students, it is important to know that we did not learn of these concerns until September 2020.”

“When we did, we took immediate action to report to the authorities what was believed to have occurred as we are required to do by law,” the statement continued. “Further, we took additional steps to conduct an internal investigation, imposed disciplinary actions as appropriate against those involved, and required mandatory training and education for the athletic team involved. St. Ed’s takes our responsibility for the safety and well-being of our students seriously. In this case, as with any such claims, we acted swiftly to engage and respond in the best interests of our students.”

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